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Meet Headteacher Jenny Sherry

Meet Headteacher Jenny Sherry

Being a headteacher has many responsibilities but one of the most important is ensuring that staff are happy, supported and working towards their career aspirations. Jenny Sherry, Headteacher, spoke to Teach in Herts about how schools in Hertfordshire help those who are looking to start or continue a teaching career in the county.

What has your teaching journey been like?

When I was younger, I always told everyone that I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to go to The University of Hertfordshire so that I could stay at home, work and pay my way through university, which is what I did. This gave me lots of access to schools in Hertfordshire and I secured my first role through one of my placements.

The first five years of my career were at the school in Hertfordshire that I had one of my teaching practices in. It was hard but they gave me all the experiences I could have wanted. One of the schools I had supplied at during my career had asked me to come in as they had been put in special measures. It was not long before a new headteacher came in and asked me to take on some more responsibility and I did. She asked me if I would take on more and I slowly kept developing to the point where I would be looking at a deputy head role at some point in the future.

I did some leadership training and I started to think about the next stage in my career but for personal reasons, I moved away from Hertfordshire to the West Country to start a family.

After living in the West Country, why did you want to return to Hertfordshire?

I missed working in Hertfordshire and wanted to continue to progress my career in the place where it started. I started back at a school that was getting some intensive support. HfL advisers have such a good experience and rapport within schools and I very quickly built up an increased network of people. I got my first deputy head role and then took on an acting head role. It all progressed very quickly but I enjoy a challenge.

What support have you had from being in Hertfordshire in terms of your own personal development as a headteacher?

When I took on my first headship, I knew it was a challenging role and through the Hertfordshire Improvement Partnerships (HIPs) and consultants at Herts for Learning, we were able to turn the school around quickly. It was great to know there was always someone that could come in and support any aspect of the school. I am passionate about the fact that the Hertfordshire School Improvement programme is really focused on making sure that headteachers can be supported to do some quite challenging things in some tight timescales. I was able to get support inside school and to access the community as there are good networking opportunities available.

What support is available to school staff in Hertfordshire?

The first thing we tell any new starter at the school is what our support package is, and find out what areas they want to develop.

When a new teacher first joins us, we look at the HfL NQT induction and conference to support them. As staff progress, we identify their training and development needs whether that is for individuals, year groups, clusters or whole school. We have had HfL subject specialists and resources in areas such as assessment, maths and English.

We are passionate about investing in our staff whatever the stage of their career.

When you have a vacancy and you are interviewing, what are the key characteristics you are looking for in a new teacher?

I want someone that is realistic about teaching, because it is a challenging and rewarding job in equal measure; it is very rewarding but I do not want to sell people a myth because there are times when it can be stressful. It is a full time job throughout the year; it is just not evenly distributed.

I want them to visit and get a feel for the school and the culture; each school is unique. I am not always looking for the finished article but I am keen to find someone who has passion and is willing to have a go!

In terms of NQTs, is there anything you are particularly looking for?

I am expecting them to be reasonably confident in front of a class of children. I remember my first day as a teacher, as the children walked in I suddenly thought, “Oh my, where do I start?” as it can be overwhelming. I want someone that is realistic about the challenges they are going to face.

How do you support staff that are new to Hertfordshire?

We support any staff that join our school – whatever stage of their career, age or career background. I had a teacher that came to work here a few years ago who came in, really impressed me in his interview and observation. We offered him a role and he said he would really like to take it but would have to move to the area and sort out somewhere to live. By the afternoon I had found somewhere for him to stay and he has now been with us for two years and is buying his own house.

We always want to provide support to any new member of staff, especially if they are relocating. All teachers at this school are happy to help and welcome new people into Hertfordshire, whether that is sharing the best routes if you wanted to cycle or the best places to go and visit. We had four NQTs a couple of years ago and they are all still with us currently.